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How computer-based tests are enriching education research

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By Marco Paccagnella
Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Test scores are a convenient measure of knowledge and skills, and they are useful in identifying both under-performers and high achievers. But test scores alone (and rankings based on them) might not tell the whole story.

Whether at the individual or country level, test scores do not tell us anything about how and why test-takers achieve a given level of performance – information that is essential to help students improve. In a classroom situation, teachers usually have access to students’ actual responses on a maths test or writing assignment, which they can use – together with their own knowledge about the student – to provide feedback, highlight subtleties and correct misunderstandings. This is not the case for researchers who analyse data from large-scale assessments, such as PISA and the Survey of Adult Skills; but computer-based testing provides researchers with new – and important – insights.

Computer-based …

How the Teaching and Learning International Survey measures innovation in education

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By Aakriti Kalra
Consultant, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Innovation, at its core, involves adapting current methods in order to improve them, or to achieve something new. For teachers, this means continuously adapting and reinventing their teaching approaches in order to meet the ever-changing needs of their students. More broadly, innovation in education encompasses the actions and conditions that help deliver what is today defined as a quality education – one that includes a wide range of knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits that will prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s citizens.

How teachers and schools innovate is a key area of enquiry in the latest cycle of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). Established in 2008, TALIS is the first major international survey of teachers and school leaders on their working conditions and the learning environments in their schools. When it comes to innovation, policy makers across the 48 TALIS participating…

Why knowledge is the most important resource for education systems today

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Dirk Van Damme
Senior Counsellor, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Education systems in developed countries today are huge – in terms of people, institutions and budgets – and emerging nations are rapidly catching up, as they expand their own educational infrastructure. Such large systems do not run on money, alone. Knowledge is probably the most important resource that education systems need to turn money and infrastructure into the outcomes that societies expect of them.

Modern societies no longer tolerate putting large amounts of money into an education system that does not deliver on expectations. But without knowledge, education risks becoming another black hole in the public infrastructure. At every level – from policy makers at the top, to the teacher in a small village school – education systems are asking for more, and better, knowledge. This is not a new phenomenon, but with evidence-informed policy and practice exerting greater influence over education in recent yea…

Why vocational education matters more than you might think

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By Giovanni Maria Semeraro
Statistician, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills



Vocational education has not always had the best reputation. Vocational programmes are often technical in nature, and their graduates typically expect lower incomes relative to those who complete general or academic tracks. As a result, vocational education is generally perceived as a track for low-achieving students, or an alternative for those who drop out.

But this reputation is not entirely deserved. In our latest Education Indicators in Focus brief, we examine the characteristics of vocational education and training programmes in modern education systems, and unmask some of the myths surrounding them. 

To start with, vocational education may be more attractive than we think. As the following figure makes clear, many countries across the OECD have developed strong and robust vocational education systems. In 2016, almost half (44%) of upper secondary students across all OECD countries were enrolled i…

How can artificial intelligence enhance and transform education?

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By Charles Fadel
Founder and Chairman, Center for Curriculum Redesign
Chair of the BIAC/OECD Education Committee


As arguably the driving technological force of the first half of this century, artificial intelligence (AI) promises to transform virtually every industry, if not human endeavours at large. Businesses and governments worldwide are pouring enormous sums of money into a wide array of AI technologies, and dozens of AI-focused start-ups have received billions of dollars in funding.

It would be naive to think that AI will not have an impact on education, as well. The possibilities for change are indeed profound, though for the moment, they are still over-hyped. It is important to strike the right balance between reality and hype – between true potential and wild extrapolations.

Every new technology is first met with high expectations, and invariably sees a precipitous fall after it fails to live up to them. The technology sees slower growth thereafter, as it develops and integrate…

How Italy developed a state-of-the-art school assessment culture

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By Andreas Schleicher
Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

I first visited Italy’s National Institute for Evaluation (INVALSI) in 1989. In those days, when it was called the CEDE, it was a place where academics debated educational research and contributed to international comparative studies. Back then, few would have thought the institute would build a comprehensive national assessment of the Italian school system. But two decades later, Italy has done just that. The country’s state-of-the-art assessment culture provides broad national diagnostics and tests the performance of students in multiple subjects and grade levels in all Italian schools.

But that’s still the easy part. A much harder task is to convert test results into meaningful feedback that can help improve teaching and learning, and enable schools to become more effective. Publishing league tables of schools doesn’t do the trick, because the performance of students and schools can depend on many things beyon…

How can teachers be more effective in diverse classrooms?

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By Neda Forghani-Arani
University of Vienna, Department for Teacher Education


Teaching is a complex, multifaceted task – especially at a time of rapid societal change. Recent migration patterns have led to increasingly diverse classrooms, which present new challenges to teachers.

There is a growing body of research on classroom diversity, with much of it focusing on the challenges that diverse classrooms pose, and potential solutions. But comparatively little is known about how teachers teach in such settings, or the preparation they need to succeed. A new OECD working paper takes a closer look at teachers’ experiences in diverse classrooms – and the competences they need to teach effectively.

In order to effectively engage with students from diverse backgrounds, teachers required the relevant knowledge and understanding, attitudes, values, skills and dispositions. Their efficacy also depends on their awareness of their own perspectives, assumptions and biases, and their ability to emp…